President Abdulla Yameen’s regime has entered its death spiral, the opposition said Saturday, as it vowed to continue protesting despite mass arrests and the use of tear gas to disperse crowds.
Thousands filled the streets of Malé Friday night for anti-government rallies, with the opposition telling media the protests would not stop until their demands were met. More than 140 people were arrested.
Hassan Latheef, chair of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said he expected to see “hundreds and thousands” of people return to the streets on Saturday night.
“What we are constantly calling on Yameen for is to enforce the February 1 Supreme Court order, release political prisoners, let parliament members into parliament, release the arrested judges, return to the constitution, and then talk to us. Until all that is done, our protests will continue,” Latheef said.
The opposition alliance praised the turnout from Friday’s protest, which was the biggest street demonstration in years.
“We are celebrating the success that people did not kneel down, even when beaten by batons, even when tear gas rained on them, even when almost 200 people were detained in tiny cells,” said Ali Nazeer from the Adhaalath Party.
Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director Omar Waraich called for the release of all detainees, saying the government was using the state of emergency as a “license for heightened repression.”
The heavy-handed crackdown came after authorities warned that the ‘Huttuva’ (Stop) protest would not be allowed, branding it an attempt to violently overthrow the government and threatening fishermen with license cancellation if they ferried protesters to the capital.
Three journalists from Raajje TV were arrested Friday night on suspicion of involvement in a YouTube video that showed masked men in police uniform saying they planned to join the anti-government rally.
Raajje TV condemned the arrests, saying the allegations were “false and baseless” and were intended to bring the station into disrepute.